The Manhattan College softball team knows what lies ahead: Finish in first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and the Jaspers will host the 2017 MAAC Tournament.
The Jaspers entered last weekend in second place, one game behind the division-leading Iona Gaels in the conference standings, and with just six MAAC contests remaining in the regular season. On Saturday, Manhattan picked up a crucial doubleheader split against the Fairfield Stags, dropping the opener 2-0 before rebounding to take the nightcap, 6-1, staying within range of front-running Iona.
“I think that it would have been nice for us to execute and get both, but every loss we got we learn from, and we take it into our next game to make sure that the mistakes we made or things that happened don’t happen again,” said Manhattan assistant coach Cat Clifford.
The Jaspers began a 12-game, season-ending road trip by splitting against Columbia on April 26 in a non-conference doubleheader before traveling to Connecticut to take on the Stags.
But the Jaspers seemed sluggish from the start versus Fairfield.
Manhattan collected just two hits in the first game against Fairfield and were shut out 2-0. It was just the second time this season Manhattan had been blanked.
The game lasted 63 minutes as the Jaspers failed to muster any offense. Manhattan starting pitcher Briana Matazinsky gave up only three hits, all of which came in the second inning when the Stags picked up the two runs they’d need to win the game.
“Their pitcher threw well in the first game,” Clifford said. “She was getting in on our hands, she was getting up with her rise ball, and I think that we weren’t disciplined enough. The second game, we made the adjustments and we were able to take pitches, see more pitches, have longer at bats, and that helped us.”
The second game was full of adjustments for the Jaspers, who picked up nine hits and had lengthier at bats, resulting in three walks.
“We always focus on strong defense, timely hits and making sure that we’re having great quality at bats,” Clifford said about the Jaspers second-game adjustments. “Even if they’re lining out every time, they’re having quality at bats.”
Manhattan immediately got on the board in the first inning after Lauren Pitney drove in Matazinsky with a single. The Stags tied it in the second, but Manhattan responded with four runs in the third, three of which came on an error after Fairfield’s centerfielder dropped a fly ball with the bases loaded.
And while the bats were lively in the second game, Manhattan’s Nicole Williams continued her impressive season. The freshman pitcher came up big for the Jaspers yet again, throwing a complete game while allowing only two hits.
Williams is 9-6 this season with a team-leading 1.76 ERA.
“She’s having a great season and we’re happy for her,” Clifford said. “I think that everything has kind of fallen into place. It’s all coming together at a good time.”
The Jaspers have counted on the services of Williams and Matazinsky at the front of the rotation all season. But to overtake Iona, Manhattan will need its bats to hit more consistently.
After splitting against Fairfield, the Jaspers also split a non-conference doubleheader against Stony Brook on Sunday. Manhattan dropped the opener 9-3 before taking the nightcap, 8-0.
Manhattan will now play two more non-conference games this week (against Fairleigh Dickinson) before finishing the season with four straight MAAC games.
The Jaspers will visit Quinnipiac for a twin bill Saturday before closing out the regular season with a doubleheader at Iona on Sunday, which should decide the MAAC regular-season championship.